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Now’s a good time to weatherize your home

Thursday, September 30, 2010

With winter in the not-so-distant future, now could be the best time to weatherize your home for year around savings on future utility bills, officials said.

When considering weatherization, Lance Brower, North Dakota State University Extension agent, suggests going to the source.

“There are programs out there but I’d recommend talking to your utility company,” Brower said.

At Otter Tail Power Co. customers are referred to an “idea center” where they receive information on websites to analyze their bills and help conserve electricity, said Jon Fabre, senior program design specialist with Otter Tail.

If a customer in North Dakota or South Dakota still has trouble paying his or her bills that person is referred to Community Action, which is offering weatherization services through stimulus funds through March 2012.

After an application is filed through Community Action Region VI, those who qualify are placed on a waiting list. The nine-county region list currently has 267 names with 20 more pending, said Kevin Munson, weatherization coordinator at Community Action.

From there some of the steps Community Action takes are the same anyone can take when weatherizing.

“Look at doors and windows, check weather stripping and door sweeps,” Munson said.

When the inside of a double-paned window begins to fog, that means there is no insulation factor left, Brower said.

While small things can work to eliminate some problems, Fabre said more money put in will result in more savings.

One of the most expensive repairs could be replacing an old oil heater with a geothermal system. That could save 80 percent on a heating bill, but cost thousands of dollars, he said.

A nice medium between replacing windows and installing a new heating system is insulation.

“The biggest area of leakage is usually in most houses is where the house sits on the foundation, that’s called a rim joist,” Fabre said.

Home do-it-yourselfers can spray a variety of materials to insulate and seal the framing structure, which can save on heating costs, he said. Homeowners can also call a contractor to do the job.

The first step when deciding what degree to take weatherization is to perform a residential energy audit, Brower said.

The Stutsman Countuy NDSU Extension Service Office in Jamestown has materials, information and tools to start an energy audit to analyze where energy is being used and how effectively it’s being used, Brower said.

Tips and techniques can also be found at

While weatherization is a good way to save on heating costs, residents can control costs quite a bit by themselves, Fabre said.

Every degree the thermostat is turned down by saves 3 percent on the heating bill, he said.

Even more savings can be had by breaking the 24-hour day into three 8-hour periods, Fabre said. During each 8-hour period every degree the thermostat is turned down by saves 1 percent on the bill.

Brower, who called the most effective winterizing tool a sweater, said simple energy saving tips can result in lower bills. Examples are running the dryer back to back, turning out lights and unplugging electronics while not in use.

“There’s lots of little things that can make a big difference in a heating bill,” Brower said.

Ben Rodgers
Jamestown Sun